Monday 07 September 2009 - 05:16 PM
A Coptic strike?
Overseas groups call for a general strike on Friday, against the Church's objections
By Joseph Mayton
Support for a Coptic strike and boycott in Egypt this Friday continues to build, despite the Coptic Church of Alexandria’s refusal to get behind the action led by Coptic groups abroad. The most recent organization to announce their participation is the Coptic American Assembly led by Camille Halim, who cited numerous government offenses against Copts in Egypt as the guiding principle behind their demands. A number of Coptic organizations based abroad called late last month for a general strike in Egypt on 11 September and asked Copts to wear black to commemorate the Christian minority’s New Year celebrations that day. The coalition of Coptic groups, led by Morris Sadek of the National Assembly of the American Copts, is demanding action for what he has repeatedly called the “repression of Copts by Muslims in Egypt." Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, the American-based Egyptian said that the planned strike is to be peaceful and “reflects the Copts' rejection of the ongoing persecution that Copts have dealt with for the past three decades." The proposed strike calls on Copts to remain at home all day. If they must leave their homes for any reason, they should wear black, according to a statement from Sadek’s organization. Copts in Egypt, however, have voiced little support for the strike calls. George Tadros, a local pharmacist, says “We don’t care what these people say. They do not speak for us and our country. “We are here, in Egypt, and they are all abroad saying these things that will do nothing but harm the situation on the ground," he added. The assembly said in a statement that they joined the call for the strike in order to achieve “justice for the Egyptian Christians" and to stop what the statement called “the Egyptian government’s disregard of their cases and discrimination against them." However, the Coptic Church has said they would not back the strike and have called on their members not to join the demonstrations, as it could “lead to furthering the sectarian tensions in the country." Among the demands are calls for a unified common law for the construction of houses of worship and the cancellation of the customary meetings of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians following a sectarian dispute or violence, “which leads to the repetition and lack of enforcing the law." Also joining the strike is the homegrown Egyptian Liberal Party – an obscure party that has yet to be formally accepted by the Egyptian political system – stressing in a statement that it supports the “right of Copts to pressure the Egyptian regime to reach their legitimate rights." The statement was published on the group’s Facebook page and explained that the Copts' “calls for the strike of September 11th, is a peaceful [action] to alert the civilized community of their rights that must be preserved." However, not everyone is convinced that a strike will be worth the effort or achieve any of these goals. Adel Fakhry Daniel, chairman of the proposed Coptic Integrity Party of Egypt has publicly rejected the strike calls, describing it as “unworthy." He stressed that the strike would not be effective and would “cause a crisis between the Church." Daniel, speaking via telephone, described the strike as “a childish plan that does not give clear options for change. It just gets people angry. Although the Copts have a lot of problems, led by the building of churches problems, we hope that the state would intervene to solve them." Daniel called on Copts not to participate in these proceedings, which would “threaten" Egypt’s security and “further endanger" the minority group’s claims. With Friday looming, the question now is whether Egypt’s Coptic minority will abide by the calls from groups outside the country.